Her Midnight Rendezvous (Street Photography)

Her Midnight Rendezvous

It’s been a long time since I shot streets, that I’ve forgotten the exhilarating thrill of seeing a story in the making, and the resulting rush of adrenaline as I scramble and jostle into position to nab it.

The car wasn’t a fluke, I planned for it and took something like twenty shots, before I got a frame with the position of the car and the pose of the subjects as I wanted it.

I was so pleased that I even had the courtesy to smile at them while passing them by the traffic light, much to their bemusement.

The Whimsical Dream of an Uninspired Mangaka (… and Flash Catalyst rant)

WHEW! Finally done!

It was a long journey with many many sleepless nights but I’m glad to say it’s done!

“The Whimsical Dream of an Uninspired Mangaka” is the name of the interactive stop motion animation that I did as part of a team of 4.
(I would love to upload it, but it’s weighing in at 70+mb :/)

Some personal reflections on the process.

Flash Catalyst is good… in theory. Horrible in execution.

It’s a pretty cool idea to have a tool that lets designers create apps without code-diving. But it is terribly flaw in execution. Here’s my take why.

1. Lack of interaction options.
Just because designers don’t like code, it doesn’t mean you do away with ESSENTIAL foundations of interactive design. Like conditions.

In programming there are critical building blocks for all software. They are the “If” and “else” statements. These allow programs to act on specified conditions. Flash Catalyst has no such functionality. If I had a picture that I want to pop out ONLY if the user has previously filled in his email for example, nope Flash Catalyst cannot do that.

2. Lack of Colour Accuracy.
Really Adobe? With all YOUR emphasis on colour accuracy in everything from Photoshop, to Illustrator, to Indesign – why no colour profile support in Flash catalyst. What’s nicely edited in photoshop looks like crap in Flash Catalyst. This forced me to change the colour profile of my entire Creative Suite of Software to fit Flash Catalyst JUST for this project. Well done. For a company that totes integration in a software SUITE, this is a BIG letdown.

3. Audio
I really don’t understand what the FC designers where thinking when they restricted audio to ONLY play during transitions between states. Implication: no Background music. No worries, we rather cleverly, I must mention, hacked it to play audio anyway.

I realise I could go on, but this post isn’t supposed to be about Flash Catalyst…

The solution was to embed audio in a video file that was looping, and hidden behind all other objects. You know there’s something really wrong with your software if your users are resorting to this sort of ‘hacks’.

Stopmotion is about detail

Admittedly this is my first really completely stop motion attempt. I have dabbled in it before but this is the first time I really worked on it as a core design concept.

You have to be really attentive to detail. Little things like positions and even lighting play a HUGE part. Example: while shooting, Jeremy need to make some cuts to one of the paper props. He reaches INTO the scene and takes the scissors from the pencil holder. That little shift in the pens easily caused us about a couple hours of editing work, to photoshop the unmoved pens and scissors back into EVERY FRAME.

Cinemagraphs

I said before I love cinema graphs. When we included a cinema graph into the main scene, it really made the scene come alive. Take a look :)

Urban Fantasy: A Voyage over Sunset Boulevard (plus mini-tutorial)

So I’m supposed to think of something called “urban fantasy”.

1 photoshoot, 14 different photos, 14 hours later, I end up with this,
A Voyage over Sunset Boulevard
(click on the image to go to my flickr, where it’s bigger!)

The astute amongst you would have realised I’m a little anachronistic here – merging both Noir elements (the city, the period clothes) with Steampunk technology. You be the judge if this little experiment worked. I really love those two genres! Also, some people have said I cannot possibly pull off the 50s era noir look, I’ll wager I didn’t do too badly here did I. :)

It’s not perfect. Had I the time I would have loved to work on the city until it really popped as a Noir/Steampunk aesthetic city. But I’ve already spent quite a bit of time on this and a backlog of unedited photos from a photoshoot beckon. At least this time I didn’t take as long as that infamous castle picture (that took upwards of 20 hours).

At the bottom of the post I’ve pasted thumbnails of the source images. Some are mine, some are taken from flickr, sxc, used under creative commons(non-commercial). Just to give a sense of scale of how much editing’s involved in something like that. It isn’t hard, just time-consuming. But the ‘fun’ of seeing building fantasy should drive the tedium away. Here’s some techniques I’ve used that you can try out. (WARNING – This assumes knowledge of basic photoshop techniques. You’ll at least need to know what is Masking.)

Understanding Light

Any good Photographer would tell you that light is one of the most (if not THE most) important aspect of Photography. Just because in compositions such as these you can place light wherever you want, doesn’t mean you can ignore it. Light needs to react reasonably with its surroundings. Shadows need to be cast in the right places, and rim lighting is needed to add depth to the image.

Shadows
If you look at the buildings and the airships – I tried as much as possible to let sunlight fall in the right place. You can use the Burn tool to control your shadows, and the Dodge tool to lift the shadows.

In this example, the sun is coming from behind the airship. A wrong placement of shadows will make the airship look odd to be there, while a right placement of Shadows will really help with blending the images together.

(click to embiggen!)

If Burn tool doesn’t work for you, painting in shadows with the humble paintbrush tool (0% hardness) at about 30-50% opacity often does. If you do it on a separate layer you can find tune it the layer opacity!

Rim Light/Highlights
Highlights, or “adding rim light” as photographers know it, is absolutely essential to give your images the ‘3D’ blend. This is especially important for dark objects against a bright background.

What is this light? Well, because the Sun is such a huge & bright light source, light doesn’t exactly stop cleanly at the edges of objects, it “wraps around” them. In the following example you’ll see that without this highlighting “rim” the subject has that pasted onto the background look. With it, the subject blends much better!


(click to embiggen!)

You can easily achieve this effect by painting the light it with a paintbrush (again 0% hardness) set to SOFT LIGHT, and about 20-50% opacity, depending on the object that is highlighted.

Behold the Power of Adjustment Layers

How do you blend so many objects of various colours harmoniously? Here’s where CS4 & 5’s adjustment layers come in REALLY handy. Better yet, because each adjustment layer has it’s own layer mask, you can REALLY fine tune which parts of the image you want the adjustment to affect. Don’t worry about making mistakes, you can always dive back in and adjust the adjustments :P

Here’s the before and after of applying a combination of adjustment layers.

(click to embiggen!)

Hope these few tips will inspire you to create your own fantasy scene!

Source Photos

Teaching Photoshop…

… also known as “class exercise 4″.

No images here. Rather than doing an exercise, I ended up teaching the class on Photoshop. So consider my class exercise a reflection of the experience then :P

I’ve taught Photoshop classes before, although this time was different for quite a number of reasons.

Being last minute for me wasn’t tough, because I had all the files I needed only. The harder thing (i suspect) was for my classmates – who probably weren’t expecting their peer to be conducting the workshop.

It’s also a much less responsive bunch than I’m used too. Usually in paid workshops, the participants are way more enthusiastic (because they foot the proverbial bill), so having a class that doesn’t respond catches me off tempo. (Kevin McGee ever said this to me, “welcome to my world.”)

Otherwise, I kind of expected to be teaching people who knew photoshop, since NM2208 Visual Communications was a pre-requisite, so I was mildly caught off-guard at general unfamiliarity the class had with photoshop.

Eg.
Me: “So you just need to fill this area with the foreground color.”

Classmate: “Sorry, what is fill? What is foreground color? Can you go slower.”

Me:”… Oh… erm, fill is that paint bucket icon on the left sidebar.” *gestures with pointer* “And foreground colour is….”

You get the drift.

Still, I like to teach classes, especially responsive ones, then it’ll be a blast. Usually I’ll even throw in mini speed-contests, to see how the participants quickly apply what they’ve learnt. But that’s with a 2 hour timeslot, and with about half as much content than I had to cover last tuesday. :/